Introduction and Testbed Setup

Western Digital is a comparatively recent entrant to the fast-growing NAS market. Despite having had a Windows Storage Server-based product for business users for some time now, a custom embedded-Linux based SMB-targeted model was lacking. Avoiding Windows in the NAS helps bring down the cost of the unit and also makes the units easier to manage for small businesses without dedicated IT staff. Last week, they officially launched the My Cloud EX2100 (2-bay) and EX4100 (4-bay) NAS units to target this market.

The chassis design of the EX4100 is very similar to that of the EX4 that we reviewed last year. Despite a smaller height and larger width, the design of the drive bays and the I/O ports are essentially the same. There is no drive caddy (which means that only 3.5" drives are supported). There is a information screen in the front panel with up and down buttons to navigate the current status messages. The main difference between the EX4 and the DL4100 is the presence of a USB 3.0 port along with a one-touch copy button in the front panel. The gallery below takes us around the contents of the package and the chassis design. Our review unit came with 6 TB WD Red drives pre-installed and pre-configured. The unit uses a 90W (19V @ 4.74A) power adapter.

The specifications of the WD My Cloud DL4100 are provided in the table below

WD My Cloud DL4100 Specifications
Processor Intel Atom C2338 (2C/2T Silvermont x86 @ 1.7 GHz)
Drive Bays 4x 3.5" SATA II / III HDD / SSD (Hot-Swappable)
Network Links 2x 1 GbE
External I/O Peripherals 2x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0
Expansion Slots N/A
VGA / Display Out N/A
Full Specifications Link WD My Cloud DL4100 Specifications
Price USD 530

Note that the $530 pricing is for the diskless unit. The 8 TB version sells for $850, 16 TB for $1170 and 24 TB for $1529.

Western Digital provides power users with SSH access to the unit, and this gives us some more insight into the platform.

WD uses Linux kernel version 3.10.38 in their 64-bit OS build. Even though the unit comes only with 2 GB of RAM, users can install a DDR3L SO-DIMM in one of the empty slots to push it up to 6 GB of RAM. Since the Rangeley SoC (Atom C2338) doesn't have any integrated USB 3.0 ports, the board must definitely be sporting a PCIe - USB 3.0 bridge. The SoC has support for up to 4x 1GbE ports, but does need external PHYs. A pair of Marvell Alaska 88E1512 PHYs are on board for this purpose. A 2 GB Micron SLC NAND flash chip holds the OS of the unit.

In the rest of the review, we will take a look at the benchmark numbers for both single and multi-client scenarios across a number of different client platforms as well as access protocols. We have a separate section devoted to the performance of the NAS with encrypted shared folders. Prior to all that, we will take a look at our testbed setup and testing methodology.

Testbed Setup and Testing Methodology

The WD My Cloud DL4100 can take up to 4 drives. Users can opt for either JBOD, RAID 0, RAID 1, RAID 5, RAID 6 or RAID 10 configurations. We expect typical usage to be with a RAID-5 or RAID-6 volume. However, to keep things consistent across different NAS units, we benchmarked a RAID-5 volume (i.e, single disk redundancy mode). Four Western Digital WD4000FYYZ RE drives were used as the test disks, even though our review unit shipped with 6 TB WD Red drives. Our testbed configuration is outlined below.

AnandTech NAS Testbed Configuration
Motherboard Asus Z9PE-D8 WS Dual LGA2011 SSI-EEB
CPU 2 x Intel Xeon E5-2630L
Coolers 2 x Dynatron R17
Memory G.Skill RipjawsZ F3-12800CL10Q2-64GBZL (8x8GB) CAS 10-10-10-30
OS Drive OCZ Technology Vertex 4 128GB
Secondary Drive OCZ Technology Vertex 4 128GB
Tertiary Drive OCZ Z-Drive R4 CM88 (1.6TB PCIe SSD)
Other Drives 12 x OCZ Technology Vertex 4 64GB (Offline in the Host OS)
Network Cards 6 x Intel ESA I-340 Quad-GbE Port Network Adapter
Chassis SilverStoneTek Raven RV03
PSU SilverStoneTek Strider Plus Gold Evolution 850W
OS Windows Server 2008 R2
Network Switch Netgear ProSafe GSM7352S-200

The above testbed runs 25 Windows 7 VMs simultaneously, each with a dedicated 1 Gbps network interface. This simulates a real-life workload of up to 25 clients for the NAS being evaluated. All the VMs connect to the network switch to which the NAS is also connected (with link aggregation, as applicable). The VMs generate the NAS traffic for performance evaluation.

Thank You!

We thank the following companies for helping us out with our NAS testbed:

Single Client Performance - CIFS & iSCSI on Windows


View All Comments

  • dreamcat4 - Thursday, March 05, 2015 - link

    It does not really seem to go away (ever be removed) the choice of the user to decide the underlying file system. Whether it is to be ZFS or RAID or other possible options such a btrfs etc.

    If you do want to buy a Synology etc box (which is fine BTW), just be sure to realize that you are usually relying upon a linux RAID-something underneath that. So then that is effectively translates into being your user choice of the underlying filesystem.

    It is very hard for individuals to properly compare RAID vs ZFS vs neither (or "other"). Because most of us only get the time to rely upon ONE of those solutions in our NAS device. However if you are sure to keep 1 full backup of all your data, then the reliability aspect. Or the risk of doing RAID rebuilds, silent non-ECC zfs errors, etc. can mostly be entirely negated. And storage process are cheap enough these days to be able to make a full backup. That I recommend above all else because then you only need to compare and choose over the relative advantages of each solution. Which makes the decision a lot easier.

    You should never trust a single RAID array or ZFS storage pool to keep you data safe. That includes the user-configuration aspect of such complex filesystems.
  • dreamcat4 - Thursday, March 05, 2015 - link

    Would also like to mention the UFS version 2.01 filesystem. It may not turn out to be suitable for all of your NAS needs. However UFS v2.01 has some unique advantages over other formats. It is properly recognized for both r+w on all of the most popular client platforms: Linux Windows and Mac OS X. Without needing any special driver whatsoever. And that advantage can be particularly helpful in recovery situations (when the other non-storage hardware has failed). So UFS v2.01 is a very good alternative to FAT32, NTFS, EXT, UFS, and HFS+ for those reasons. It's main competitor is FAT32. However unlike FAT32 it has no annoying 4GB file size limit, and comes with journalling. Reply
  • CiccioB - Thursday, March 05, 2015 - link

    Is there a plan for the consumer versions (My Cloud/ My Cloud Mirror) to be upgraded soon as well? Reply
  • 1DaveN - Thursday, March 05, 2015 - link

    I've worked a little with a pre-release one of these, and have several of the similar WD storage boxes. One of the best things about these is that they are quite small, and practically silent. You can put them anywhere - I have two in a shared office, and my office mate would complain about the noise if she noticed it. The build quality is excellent, and they should be widely available, leading to some discounting at places like Amazon.

    My oldest of these WD boxes dates from the summer of 2011 (if you look on their web site, you'll find a number of different servers that look very similar. Mine runs Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 Essentials). That one has been storing daily backups of 16 Windows client PCs since 2011 and I've never had any problems with it whatsoever.

    I'm not sure a NAS is a device where performance is the first consideration. At least for me, they're not primary storage where a slow response is keeping me waiting. I tend to use a NAS more for backup or archived file storage where a few seconds one way or the other isn't really noticeable.
  • jay401 - Friday, March 06, 2015 - link

    Anyone know why WD's HDD prices have been shooting upward the last few weeks? 4-6TB Reds have gone up quite a bit. Is there a supply problem? Reply
  • ap90033 - Tuesday, March 10, 2015 - link

    Is it me or does this site seem to have about half the reviews and info that it used to? Reply
  • ewanhumphries1706 - Wednesday, December 20, 2017 - link

    ACS is one stop IT solutions service provider based in the UK, catering to companies of all sizes. They also promote workplace innovation through their latest office furniture and interior design services.

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